Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vaclav Suk

Vaclav Suk (Vyacheslav Ivanovich Suk) was a Czech violinist, conductor, and composer born (in Kladno, Bohemia) on November 16, 1861.  I do not know if he is related to composer Josef Suk but it has been said that he is.  Suk studied at the Prague Conservatory with Antonin Bennewitz (teacher also of Otakar Sevcik and Karl Halir) from 1873 to 1879.  He joined the Warsaw Philharmonic in 1880.  He was 19 years old.  Very soon thereafter, he moved to Kiev to play in the Imperial Orchestra as concertmaster.  Two years later, he went to Moscow to play in the Bolshoi Orchestra (1882-1887.)  In 1885, he began his conducting career in Kharkiv (in the Ukraine.)  After that, he guest conducted in Europe and Russia but I do not know if he kept playing the violin.  From 1890 to 1894, he either played in or conducted a private orchestra in Vilnius (Lithuania), Jascha Heifetz' birthplace.  It is entirely possible that Heifetz’ father, Ruben, was playing in that orchestra at the time.  From 1894 until 1906, Suk was probably free-lancing as a conductor or violinist or both.  In that year, he returned to Moscow to serve on the conducting staff of the Bolshoi Opera.  He stayed there for 25 years.  In 1928, he was promoted to the position of Chief Conductor.  However, he also conducted concerts, promoting the works of Czech composers.  In 1927, he began a separate but simultaneous tenure at the Stanislavski Opera Theatre, also in Moscow.  Suk premiered some of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas and was known for his fine interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s music.  There is no mention of him as a teacher but it's hard to imagine that somewhere along the way he did not have pupils, whether in violin, conducting, or composition.  On the other hand, perhaps he simply didn't care for that kind of work.  Suk died (in Moscow) on January 12, 1933, at age 71.  Prokofiev was 41 years old, Richard Strauss was 69, and Stravinsky was 50.  Music had become modern.  Suk composed a number of works for orchestra, some chamber music, and a few songs.  I don’t think any of that music is played today, except, perhaps, in the Czech Republic.  Late in life, Suk’s portrait was painted by Leonid Pasternak, father of writer Boris Pasternak.  

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